The newly crowned national time trial champion put on a typical powerhouse display to win the stage, surging to victory over Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Rachel Neylan (UniSA) in front of a sizeable crowd in Stirling.
Launching her sprint out of the peloton, even Brown’s teammates Lucy Kennedy and Amanda Spratt were unable to follow in the wheel of the Victorian, with Brown reaching an insurmountable lead a hundred metres before the line.
“Coming through the roundabout,” Brown said, “with a few kilometres to go, Trek had started their train on the other side and I just tried to jump in there and get in about fifth wheel. I got a bit boxed but luckily found a bit of a gap.”
“I attacked a bit earlier than I was expecting, the plan was to go with about 400 metres and I went from about 600 metres, which was a long way.
“When I saw I had a bit of a gap and people were struggling to get on my wheel, I hit it again and rode all the way to the finish line. It was quite painful.”
It was a performance made all the more impressive with Brown called up to do work during the stage in defence of Spratt’s ochre leader’s jersey and chasing down a number of breakaway attempts before the stage finale.
“I definitely wasn’t saving myself during the stage, I think Gracie was our first pick for the finish and the team needed me to do work throughout the stage, that was the priority always – protecting Spratty’s lead," Brown said.
Brown has been an instant hit with the Australian World Tour squad, claiming Mitchelton-Scott’s only green and gold jersey of the Australian national championships in the time trial and impressing with her domestique work at the Tour Down Under. The 26-year-old neo-professional appears to have found her feet in a very competitive environment.
“Coming into the pre-season, I wasn’t feeling super great,” Brown said. “but I’ve come into some really good form recently. I’ve really enjoyed this tour doing a lot of work for the team and it’s awesome they rewarded me, with letting me have a go on today’s stage.”
“I think I’ve been welcomed in really well, it’s a great team and we all get along well and support each other.”
The stage had an odd moment, with the peloton heading the wrong way at one point and the race was neutralized by the chief commissaire, Peter Stuppacher.
“Yes, we had a misdirection,” Stuppacher said. The race is very well and perfectly organised and I one guy gives the wrong sign… it happened. The riders were very relaxed in the race as the bunch and nothing happened that was important for the GC.”
Riders confirmed there was no objection raised at the time, but the neutralization occurred at a crucial point in the race when the peloton was being strung out under the pressure of attacks going through the sprint point.
Some had been dropped from the front of the race, but with little idea of who and what if any time gaps there were, all the riders started together after the neutralization.
“It was not possible (to separate the dropped riders from the peloton),” Stuppacher said. “It was an advantage for the dropped riders but it is not deciding for the GC. There was no discussion, they were really calm and relaxed, no big problem.”
“It’s very well organized, we have perfect security, just this little mistake happened.”
The fourth and final stage of the Tour Down Under is to be run ahead of the men’s opening criterium, with Spratt leading the race with a 49-second advantage over teammate Kennedy.